Saransk: big stadium for small city and fussy new-builds
The match list in Saransk doesn't capture your imagination. Only Portugal will come to fight against Iran on 25 June among relatively top teams. The other matches are Peru vs Denmark (16 June), Colombia vs Japan (19 June) and Panama vs Tunisia (28 June). Play-offs won't visit Saransk.
The WC stadium is the most notable architectural construction of Saransk is called Mordovia Arena and is designed for 44,149 spectators. At the same time, Mordovia is the smallest host city – only 315,000 citizens (for comparison, the population of Kazan is four times bigger). The construction of the Samara stadium wasn't linked with such a number of scandals as, for instance, the erection of Samara Arena by the same contractor general Kazan Production and Construction Association.
The stadium wasn't designed for the WC – it was planned to commission it by 2012 with a capacity of 28,000 spectators and dedicate the opening to the 1,000 anniversary of the union of the Mordvin people with peoples of the Russian state. But when Saransk entered the list of WC host cities, there was a necessity to seriously change the project. In the end, the opening match was only on 21 April 2018 here. Local Mordovia and Zenit (Izhevsk) played there, and it was the 20 th match of the Professional Football League (third division in Russian football).
The officially accepted name of the stadium is a compromise. Shumbrat Arena (shumbrat is a greeting in Mordvin) and Lev Yashin were among other possible names. After the championship ends, the stadium will switch to the mode ''Legacy'' and be designed for 30,000 spectators. The federal centre will help the republic to maintain and fill the stadium.
Even famous Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov, who quite critically describes the reality of Russian cities, noted an extremely comfortable location of Mordovia Arena, which one can get to from the airport (5 km) without going to the centre. The railway station is also close (2,4 km), while the stadium is within walking distance from the centre of Saransk.
Buses 7, 13, 31 go from the airport to the stadium (to the stop Monument to Pugachyov or Volodarsky) or Bus 15 (to the stop Mokhovaya). Transfer time is 15-20 minutes. Trolleybus 5 goes from the railway station (to the stop Mokhovaya), transfer time is 5 minutes.
Where to stay
According to Realnoe Vremya's research, the most expensive hotels during the cup will be right in Saransk. In May, booking.com doesn't have any cheap offers on 25 June (when Cristiano Ronaldo comes to Mordovia). The smallest sum you will have to pay is 10,000 rubles per night in a flat without modern improvement in Ruzayevka (20 km from Saransk) – there are just two offers of this kind. In very Saransk, the price tag starts with 13,000 rubles, it's also flats, and their number is also small. But there are many flats from ''14,000 rubles to infinity''.
The whole city has seriously improved thanks to the new stadium. A beautified microregion has appeared next to the stadium, Tavly and Insar Embankment has been ''updated''.
Church of Saint John the Theologian – an Orthodox church built in 1693 whose construction finished many times and that closed in the 30s – is the oldest building in Saransk. Streletskaya Settlement was located here in the past. In the early 1990s, the church was given back to the believers. The cathedral church of Saransk represents a completely different example of church architecture, which was built in 2006 – Cathedral of St Theodore Ushakov is dedicated to, as one can guess, Russian admiral who lived in the 18 th century. The admiral who is ranked to sainthood by the Russian Orthodox Church retired and settled in a village he purchased in Tambov Governorate next to Sanaksarsky Monastery (today's territory of Mordovia).
During a walk in the city, one should visit the Stepan Erzi Mordovian Regional Museum of Fine Arts, which was named after the famous Mordovian sculptor who lived in Argentina for 23 years. His modernist works are presented in a separate hall of the museum.
Among Saransk monuments, we should note the (only) monument to leader of the biggest peasant and Cossack rebellion Yemelyan Pugachyov and the composition Forever with Russia, which opened in 1986. It depicts two women in national costumes (Russia and Mordovian) carrying an ear of wheat.
Where to eat
It won't be easy to those foreign tourists who don't trust local public catering and got used to eating in checked McDonald's: there is only one representative of this fast food chain in Saransk. And, for instance, KFC and Burger King's franchises are absent here.
However, it's a good reason to taste Saransk delicacies, for instance, in café Otmennaya Pelmennaya (average bill is 500 rubles), which is just 800 m from the stadium or restaurant Baron Munchausen with live music (the building of Saransk hotel, average bill is 1,000 rubles) or gastronomic pub Boar&Rutabaga (average bill s 500 rubles), prices according to 2GIS.
Saransk is among many backwater cities stands out with its architecture, which is unusual at times. For instance, the building of N. Ogaryov Mordovian State University in the Millennium Square is a newly made replica of the main building of Moscow State University on Sparrow Hills. The Memorial Military and Labour Feat Museum in 1941-1945 (34a, Soviet Street) is pained in colours of the Ribbon of Saint George. The façade of the building of I. Yaushev State Music Theatre (36, B. Khmelnitsky Street) also looks unusual, it resembles a huge lyre. Saransk also has enough unusual sculptures, for example, the sculpture of Old Lady Shapoklyak with Rat Lariska.
It's better to start the acquaintance with the traditional culture of the Mordvin people in Mordovian Metochion (21, Saranskaya Street). In this ethnographic museum, you have a complete idea than in the countryside. Here you will go for a walk along a traditional Mordovian house, see ways of housekeeping, history and rich mythology of the Mordvins. One can also taste dishes of Mordvin cuisine here.